New Research Finds that Cell Phones Reflect Our Personal Microbiome

Scientists have found that our cell phones reflect the personal microbial world of their owners with potential implications for their use as bacterial and environmental sensors (Source: anonymous)

Main Point:

Study suggests potential uses for cell phones as non-invasive health and bacterial sensors.

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Smartphones are everywhere, and they may be smarter than you think. Beyond the apps that help track fitness and manage health conditions, our cell phones actually reflect the personal microbial world of their owners, with potential implications for their use as bacterial and environmental sensors. New research focused on the personal microbiome – the collection of microorganisms on items regularly worn or carried by a person – demonstrates the significant microbiological connection we share with our phones. Read More …

Human activity influences beach bacterial diversity

Main Point:

High beach bacterial diversity may contribute to less water contamination.

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Human activity influences ocean beach bacterial communities, and bacterial diversity may indicate greater ecological health and resiliency to sewage contamination, according to results published March 5, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Elizabeth Halliday from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and colleagues.

Beaches all contain bacteria, but some bacteria are usually from sewage and may contaminate the water, posing a public health risk. In this study, scientists studied bacterial community composition at two distant beaches (Avalon, California, and Provincetown, Massachusetts) during levels of normal- and high-contamination (measured using a fecal or ‘poop’ indicator) by genetically sequencing over 600,000 bacteria from 24 dry sand, intertidal sand, and overlying water sampling sites at the locations. Waters at the Avalon site frequently violate water quality standards, while waters at the Provincetown site have infrequent water quality violations.

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Predicting the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria

Antibiotics (Credit: Samantha Celera/Flickr)

The ability to predict exactly where and when a future outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacteria will emerge is of obvious utility for improving public health. But despite the fact that the public databases are already brimming with tens of thousands of cataloged DNA mutations that confer such resistance, those don’t reveal how other mutations may emerge, and forecasting outbreaks remains beyond the predictive power of modern science. Read More …

Bacterial Biofilms: Fast and Slow Streamers

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureas (MRSA). (Credit: NIAID/Flickr)

Unwanted, harmful bacterial cells can be found fouling surfaces everywhere from lifesaving medical devices to toe-jamming pond scum — often in the form of “biofilms,” where they clump together into a slimy, protective surface. In recent years, many researchers have been exploring the physics behind biofilm formation and trying to figure out better ways mitigate the problem or to prevent the fouling films from forming in the first place.

Howard Stone and his colleagues at Princeton are exploring the mechanics and molecular biology of one biofilm-related phenomenon known as streamer formation. When biofilms grow and develop in the presence of fluid flow, they form three-dimensional thread-like offshoots made of polymers and cells. These “streamers” can rapidly clog small channels and quickly foul sanitary surfaces.

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Bacterial use to produce diesel when required

Researchers have used the bacteria to produce diesel on demand (Credit: Marian Littlejohn)
Researchers have used the bacteria to produce diesel on demand (Credit: Marian Littlejohn)

Main point:

Scientists have developed a method to use a type of bacteria, known as E. coli., for the production of diesel when required.



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E. coli is a species of bacterium normally living in the intestines of humans and other vertebrates, especially the colon, but usually cause infections in other parts of the body. New and highly virulent strains of this bacterium that have recently evolved are particularly dangerous and can cause serious illness or death. Its full form is Escherichia coli.

Now, scientists have developed the technique to use E. coli bacterium to produce diesel. These bacteria convert sugars into fats to make their cell membranes. The same technique can be used to produce natural oils.

They found that the diesel produced by E. coli bacteria is very much similar to the traditionally used diesel fuel, thereby removing the requirement of mixing it with the petroleum products as normally done by the biodiesels obtained from plant oils. Read More …

Viruses could adopt their own immune system showing that they are the living organisms

Artist's depiction of bacteriophage (Credit: iStockphoto)Researchers have found that viruses could adopt their own immune systems that can protect them from the harmful responses of bacteria.

This research has been published online in the journal Nature.

Researchers worked on bacteriophage (bacteria-infecting virus) and cholera bacteria. They found that the virus uses the immune system of bacteria against bacteria. This response of virus causes the cholera bacteria to be killed resulting in the production of more phage viruses leading to the killing of more bacteria.

In the study, researchers were working on the DNA sequences of phages taken from the stool samples of the patients with cholera in Bangladesh. They identified the genes of functional immune system in phages that were previously found in some bacteria. In order to confirm this finding, researchers exposed the phage virus resistant bacteria to the phage viruses having no such genes and found that the phage viruses were unable to kill the bacteria while in another experiment they exposed the resistant bacteria to the phage viruses with such genes and found that the virus was able to kill the bacteria. This experiment showed that the phages adopted functional immune systems to protect them from bacteria.

Researchers are very optimistic that this finding can help in further use of viruses in phage therapy in which viruses are used to kill bacteria, therefore bacterial infections, especially those  bacteria which are resistant to almost all currently available antibiotics.

“Virtually all bacteria can be infected by phages. About half of the world’s known bacteria have this adaptive immune system, called CRISPR/Cas, which is used primarily to provide immunity against phages. Although this immune system was commandeered by the phage, its origin remains unknown because the cholera bacterium itself currently lacks this system. What is really remarkable is that the immune system is being used by the phage to adapt to and overcome the defense systems of the cholera bacteria. Finding a CRISPR/Cas system in a phage shows that there is gene flow between the phage and bacteria even for something as large and complex as the genes for an adaptive immune system,” Kimberley D. Seed, Ph.D., First author and a postdoctoral fellow in Camilli’s lab, said in a statement. Read More …

Di-iron hydrogenase

Di-iron hydrogenaseDi-iron hydrogenase (Fe-Fe hydrogenase) is a bacterial enzyme that helps the bacteria to produce hydrogen from water. Some bacterial enzymes have a huge turnover of 10^4/s for the production of hydrogen from water. (Selloni et. al. 2013).

Researchers have found that the efficient catalytic site in the isolated [FeFe] H subcluster is the Fe d center distal (d) to the [4Fe-4S] H cluster while the other iron site, i.e. the proximal Fe p, has higher energy barriers. (Sbraccia et. al.)

It is one of the inspirational natural materials for scientists to produce hydrogen for its utilization as a fuel.


P. H.- L. Sit, R. Car, M. H. Cohen, A. Selloni, 2013. Oxygen tolerance of an in silico-designed bioinspired hydrogen-evolving catalyst in water. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1215149110

Sbraccia C, Zipoli F, Car R, Cohen MH, Dismukes GC, Selloni A., (2008). Mechanism of H2 production by the [FeFe]H subcluster of di-iron hydrogenases: implications for abiotic catalysts. The journal of Physical Chemistry. B. doi: 10.1021/jp803657b